By Alex Evans, National Business Awards

Tripling revenues year on year and amassing a monthly audience of 725 million online video viewers helped Unruly Media win the BlackBerry Growth Strategy of the Year award in 2011; but beneath these impressive headline numbers were key indicators for future growth that reassured judges.

“We like to gather the best people around the table, irrespective of seniority or length of tenure,” says Sarah Wood, Co-founder and COO of Unruly Media, explaining how she has engaged staff in delivering big growth objectives. “Unruly is a strident meritocracy, where anyone with great ideas, a positive attitude and the determination to get things done can influence decision making and have an impact on the business and its future growth.”

This is the kind of employee engagement that helped Unruly Media make it into the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For (ranking at number 27). “It has helped us to recruit an extremely talented workforce, which unsurprisingly delivers awesome results for clients,” Sarah adds; but how does this investment in people deliver bottom line benefit?

“Our Unruliversity programmes give high performing Gen-Y staff the opportunity to develop professional skills at an early stage, helping them to provide industry-leading customer service and commitment to our clients, which results in a lot of repeat business and rebookings. We're committed to participating in conferences and reporting what we've learned back to the whole company, which keeps Unruly at the cutting edge of technological innovation and has led to several product enhancements that attract new clients. Last week, for example, several staff members from across the company lobbied for a pinterest social plugin to be added to our video player and it was built within the week - leading to an £80k booking within the day.”

Empowering people

Baringa Partners, a boutique consultancy specialising in energy and financial services, was shortlisted not only for its investment in people but the impact this had on its bottom line.

“Acting as a collective ensures there is buy-in to strategy across the firm,” says Partner Adrian Bettridge. “Baringa also invests heavily in developing leadership internally, committing a great deal in training to enable individuals to become the next wave of leaders.”

‘Blending partner involvement and staff empowerment’ to define and execute strategy, Baringa has created a culture of growth. “We have several offerings such as Customer Experience and Risk and Regulation that are driven by employees in non-executive roles and have contributed greatly to our company’s growth,” adds Bettridge. “Risk and Regulation, as an example, has brought in approximately 20 per cent of Financial Services’ revenues for the current year to date.”

An inclusive culture, where people are given ownership of ideas to make them happen, can deliver exceptional growth in the toughest times.

Tips for growing business growers

Unruly Media Co-founder Sarah Wood shares her top five tips on how to engage staff in growth objectives:

1. Make sure that everyone knows about the growth plan - where, when, why and how it's happening. We have quarterly town halls where we set out the growth plan and priorities for the coming quarter

2. Give as many people as possible an opportunity to share in the growth: our ops teams have had the opportunity to travel overseas and train teams in Sweden, Paris, Berlin and New York; everyone has the opportunity to contribute to new product + revenue stream ideas

3. Commit the time and resources needed to scale and develop the skills of team members as the business grows. Nobody should feel left behind

4. Foster an open welcoming culture, where new people are quickly integrated into the fabric of the company and become part of the family

5. Enjoy the ride! Being part of a high growth company is a bit like riding a roller coaster. It's important for everyone to celebrate the high speed trajectory when the going is good and to hold each other tight as you fly over speed bumps. Not everything will go to plan but if you all recognise the growing pains for what they are, you're more likely to enjoy the experience.

The hunt is on for organisations that have achieved exceptional growth over the last year. For information about the BlackBerry Growth Strategy of the Year award, and how to enter, call the Entry team on 0207 234 8755, email anthony.akoto@ubm.com or visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk

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